Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brad Kopplin
A shag haircut doesn't have to be a precursor to anything. It doesn't have to indicate any predisposed personality traits or suggestive behaviorisms of the spotted wearer. There certainly could be some hot-blooded, devil may care individual operating beneath it, but it would be awfully speculative on the part of the accuser. Worry about your own business instead of judging others based on their preferred hair styling. Mind your p's and q's and stop thinking that shaggy hair means rock and roll to the tilt. It is usually right on though. You can try it and see that, 90-percent of the time, if you go up to that teenaged/20-something lad with drooping locks that swish when they nod or brush their teeth, and ask what they thought of the newest Gossip record, you'd see that aloof demeanor joggle and that new, rarely seen intangible wash of freak out spill into their facial features just like that.
They'd gush and stammer. It might be stereotypical, but it's a sign. David Vandervelde's haircut doesn't affect him personally. It's got so little to do with his music, really, but it is at least a surface indication of his hedonism, by way of the temple, the chapel, the alter of rock 'n fucking roll. He is devout. He's a 22-year-old man swallowed whole by the powers that be – in this case Marc Bolan, Mickey Finn, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood – and as they're whispering into his ears, there's no mistaking that they're telling him to eat, drink and be the late 1960s and all of the 1970s. Then they tell him, "But kid, do it your way." And so it is. Vandervelde is a child born of the 80s, but there's none of that ducktailing of hair or wearing of acid-washed jeans to him. He's a vintage throwback to those years when the most experimental music being made could actually be heard coming out of transistor radios.
Vandervelde is a feral creature, who seems to identify more closely with inner urges and instinct than he ever would theory or strategic planning. The songs that he writes are spun with reckless abandon and have the kind of spontaneous force to make Mt. St. Helen's feel like a leaky faucet. He stays away from writing songs that say he's sad or bored, choosing instead to focus on the wrongs others have done to him, bringing them to mind over and over with some magnificent melodies -- that sometimes hyperventilate if the wrongs were strong enough – and murderous guitar solos that are never the same ones twice. He's found himself a backing band of old and new friends – one from back home in West Michigan – and the others after he moved to Chicago and began working on his material with Jay Bennett as a 19-year-old. He and Bennett were working on their own solo records when they shared the studio space. They basically secluded themselves from the world for two years, working non-stop on their own songs, inspiring one another with the independent progresses each was making in the room next door. A lot of the equipment that Wilco used to record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Being There was used to make Vandervelde's debut, which brims with indisputable vigor. The Moonstation House Band doesn't have a listless bone in its body and it's a reflection of an artist who has taught himself to play most instruments and knows what he's hearing in his head and how to get it across in a timeless way. There's a desire to check the born on date of these songs to make sure they really are newborns, only because they're stuffed with the characteristics of aged goodness and hooks that are so tasty they should have already been vouched for. They are unconditionally big and garage-y and what happens when one man points a flashlight at the bottom of his guts and then just lets fly with the first things that pop into his head.
*The Daytrotter interview:*
*How did you and the Moonstation House Band (also known as the functioning Chicago-based band Where The Moon Came From) become a team? You make for a motley bunch, wouldn't you say?
David Vandervelde: Yes, indeed. The band is made up of my good friends in Chicago that I have known for a couple years now. Three of the six are my roommates at 'Dude Camp'. Derek -- the drummer -- and I have been friends and bandmates since we were 12, in Holland, Michigan. I met Johnny, Robbie and Matt at Jay's studio in Chicago the day I moved there from Michigan. They were mixing their first Where The Moon Came From record. I met Fergus from these dudes. Fergus is also my tennis partner.
*It came together really quickly, right? Tell me about the first show you guys played together. How did it go, what were the rehearsals like and what was the post-show like?*
DV: After Chris at Secretly Canadian said they were interested in putting out the record I asked my buddies to help me out and play this show with me for the label in Bloomington, Ind.. The show was pretty bad, but it did the trick I guess! We rehearsed for about a week and we drank thousands of beers and smoked a lot of grass. It's always fun playing with these dudes.
*This session is posting on Christmas day. What do you anticipate will be in the wrapped boxes with your name on them? What did people get from you this year? What were Christmases like when you were younger? Did you get your first guitar as a Christmas present?*
DV: I asked my mom and dad for a knife and an apron 'cus I cook a lot. I have a big family, so we draw names every year. I bought my older brother John a tool belt from Sears with a bunch of pockets and shit. I'm giving everyone my CD too. Yes, I did get my first guitar for Christmas, when I was 13, from Santa. I still have it.
*You met the Secretly Canadian peoples how? Who there in the SC crew can drink with you?*
DV: I sent out about 20 demo CDs and they were by far the right fit for me. They just really love the record and are doing everything they can for me. We've had a couple wild nights over at Chris Swanson's house in Bloomington. We all hang well together and love the same music, so it works out in a cool way. His friend Dave introduced us to the Vaporizer method of smoking, which is always a good Bloomington treat.
*Drugs and alcohol of choice?*
DV: Vodka and grapefruit. (Grey Hound)
*Are you already at work on a sophomore record? I know you've had the debut (out Jan. 23) done for a long while.*
DV: I've been writing a bit, but haven't been recording much. First thing's first. The album, in a lot of ways, is a scrapbook. "Jacket" and "Nothin' No" (the singles) were a couple of the first songs I recorded at Jay Bennett's studio, where I lived and worked for two years or so. I was 19 at that time. "Murder in Michigan" was recorded this past spring, around the time I turned 22. So yes, I have been sitting on some of the tunes for a while now. I am excited to get going on the second record, after some touring and such on the first one.
*What's the best rock and roll story you can tell?*
DV: I have too many rock and roll stories for my age. One that always comes to mind is when I walked in on Jay at our old studio and he had been up all night working/drinking and was passed out sitting up in an office chair with beer in hand, with one shoe on and one shoe of and pad thai everywhere...literally... in his mouth, on his chest on the floor... I was so startled, I was like, "Dude are you ok?" And he said, "I'm great man. Just fell asleep eating my pad thai."
*What's the best story about your grandpa that you can tell?*
DV: My grandpa Haywood is one hell of a guy. Gruff and loving -- a recovering alcoholic sort. He chews tobacco and swallows the juice with coffee. I shit you not. One time at a family Christmas, when I was a little boy, I remember him telling a deer hunting story and he said, "I was out there in my blind, on the edge of the soybean field and I saw a pretty little doe out there on the hillside. I raised up my muzzle loader, had 'er in my sights but I couldn't shoot 'er. She was too pretty to shoot -- too pretty to shoot."
*How old are you? How old do you feel?*
DV: I'm 22 and feel like I'm not gonna get older. Kinda strange, I feel so young still. I don't think too much about that.
*Is there something primal about the songs you write?*
DV: I feel like the good songs I write, I just can't help. It seems like the good ones come fast, in just a few minutes. A lot of times a song intended to be about someone else I realize is about me. I write most songs by just singing what's in my head, then I try to get to a piano or guitar and construct chords around it. I never really write songs that say I'm sad or I'm bored or whatever. I like to stick to the accusing side of things.
*What was the writing and working situation like when you shared a studio with Jay Bennett? He said a lot of cigarettes were smoked and you guys kind of just locked yourselves away, feeding off of each other's creativity.*
DV: This is true. Jay is like my best friend, brother and father all rolled into one. We help each other out a lot emotionally and spiritually. He's an amazing part of my life.
*What did you learn from him? Is he a man misunderstood by many, do you think?*
DV: I've learned a lot from Jay over the years. How important it is to not let ego get in the way of the creative process, for one. We both have lived by this mentality together and it makes the studio so much more fun. The worst is working with bands that bitch about things that don't matter, like my drums are too quiet, where is my guitar....blah blah. We both believe that the songs are the most important part of making music and recording. I don't know if Jay is misunderstood. If he is, he shouldn't be, he's the sweetest guy in the world, you and I both know that.
*How would you describe yourself?*
DV: I love making music. It's all I really think about and it's who I am. I don't take myself very seriously and I've been told I'm a little nerdy I guess. I'm usually sarcastic...I don't know.... I'm easy to be friends with but can be hard to get to know, maybe. Other than that, a true sex god.
Click here to visit David Vandervelde's myspace page.